AFRICANGLOBE – Sam Kodo is not your average Joe. He is a young student and innovator from Togo who has conceived and built a humanoid robot from TV and other electronic scraps. At the young age of seven when the concerns of most of his mates were fun and food, Kodo had created his first robot, a robot intelligent enough to bypass obstacles.
Kodo has always seen things differently. When he looks at a device, he does not just see a device, but a number of innovations. Kodo is what most people would term a creative genius, and rightly so. His robots are designed with the ability to recognize faces and objects, draw, interact with humans, execute orders and even play football.
Realizing the ingenuity of their son early, Sam’s parents encouraged him and played a significant role in influencing who he is today. They often found and brought him scraps of electronics for him to build robots. “I want to take the opportunity to thank my mom,” Sam said, recalling how his mother gave him money to get toys, just so he could take them apart and create his inventions with the parts. “I was also very fortunate to have my dad help me find the right parts I needed.”
His father taught physics at the University of Lome, so Kodo naturally enjoyed studying equations for long hours at the school library. This helped him to develop an affinity for electronics.
Computers Africans Can Afford
More than an innovator, Sam is also an entrepreneur. In 2013, he developed the Infinite Loop, a tech company that produces locally made, low-cost computers, having realized the need of students who could not afford pricey computers. “In our country, many students do not have enough to afford the IT tools for their school work; hence the idea came to me to help with this project.”
Infinite Loop was funded on the cash prize Sam won at a national competition for young entrepreneurs. With the money, Sam was able to rent an office, buy materials to make his computers, and employ a number of people. He considers himself fortunate to team up with people who shared his talent, to set up Infinite Loop.
Computers produced by Infinite Loop are called the Lifebook PC. They are pocket sized and are plugged into TVs or touchscreens to turn them into an internet enabled desktop PC. These computers are sold for $76, which costs about half the amount of production.
On his role models, Kodo admires entrepreneurial tech gurus such as Apple Founder Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. “Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might not have particularly been good businessmen or good administrators or even good at marketing, but what they did was they surrounded themselves with people who have the competencies and skills to turn their [innovations and computer skills] into a company,” he said, citing lessons learnt from his role models. “When you choose a business partner, choose someone who complements you, not someone with the same skill. And someone who can add value to the business.”
Tech To Solve Africa’s Problems
Kodo is a philanthropist at heart; he sees technology as having the ability to solve major problems in Africa. So he produces low-cost gadgets that are super affordable for the benefit of everyone that needs them. “With the computer I’ve created it’s important to remember there was a purpose behind this type of computer. It’s accessible and not expensive. Pretty much any student who’d like to purchase a computer like this can do so.”
On his advice to other budding African entrepreneurs, Kodo promotes passion, curiosity, constant acquisition of knowledge, originality and courage. “Just think about it. If you fail, at least you have tried. There are a lot of people who have ideas but never try,” he said. “Even if you fail, you are already one step better off in life than those who don’t even try.”
Last year, Sam Kodo was one of 12 finalists from all over Africa nominated for the prestigious Anzisha Award, a prize for African innovators and entrepreneurs within the age range of 15 to 22.
By: Hadassah Egbedi